First Set Jamming

7.4.10 (W.Rogell)

The first sets of Phish shows have developed a retro-shape during this era, consisting mostly of compositions and one or two structured jams. A renewed focus on the artistry of each individual song has brought a sense of care to these opening frames, maintaining energy if sometimes lacking adventure. The most exciting parts of these first halves inevitably came with old-school jam vehicles and the band’s revitalized structured (‘type I‘) jamming. Injecting doses of creativity into their sets, pieces that that remained anchored to song structure burst with life for the first time in years. A facet of the band’s playing that had grown stale in the waning years of 1.0 and post-hiatus, has come back in force during 2010, illustrating the renewed focus and intent of Phish.

“Bathtub Gin” is, perhaps, the best example of this progression of summer, as each version provided a first set standout. Beginning with nTelos’ version that broke into a unique groove before Trey annihilated the peak, the song brought blasts of fresh jamming to the four first sets in which it appeared. While all four versions remained tied to the song’s theme, they each stood alone as unique highlights of Virginia, SPAC, Merriweather, and Atlanta.

6.25.10(G. Lucas)

Similar patterns followed for other  first set rotation songs, “Reba,” “Wolfman’s,” and “David Bowie.” Between differing guitar and bass tones, varying rhythms, and depending who led each jam, versions became distinct within structure. Because each version presented a distinct course to the same ending, the vehicles in rotation remained fresh and differentiating versions more often became a matter of musical taste rather than quality. Now, the same songs provided similar, but variant adventures. If one compares the Chicago and Charlotte “Wolfman’s ,” the SPAC and Atlanta’s ” Gins,” or the Hartford and Canandaigua “Reba,” and they will find different playing styles amidst similar themes, another aspect that spiced up this past tour.

6.25.10 (G.Lucas)

Aside from songs  in rotation, Phish also used the first set to drop a couple one-time jams, including one of the tour’s most compelling  first set moment in Camden’s “Timber Ho!” Musical density at its finest, these seven-minutes of psychedelia featured more intricate interplay that many jams twice its length. In another first-half offering, Phish stretched out Atlanta’s “Destiny Unbound” into a smooth, welcome-to-the-weekend dance session. The band dropped only two “Splits,” each coming in the first set, providing divergent dips into dissonance at Hershey and Camden.

While first sets have been largely reserved for songs and longer compositions, when Phish decided to jam they did so with re found focus, exchanging ideas and thematic variants efficiency. Whether attacking “Ocelot” or “Antelope,” they did so in the moment, churning out fresh music like a meat grinder. In an evolution that can only point to greener pastures, Phish can once again spurn excitement with ten-minute jams that don’t veer from their roots. A minor frustration developed among some fans this summer when this type of playing seeped too much into second sets, leaving some shows with little exploration. All of a sudden, for those not on tour, catching a significant open jam seemed like landing a prize winning fish. But hopefully Phish’s structured proficiency will serve as a foundation for more frequent risk-taking as we head into the next phase of tour.

Ten Must-Hear First Set Jams of Summer (in no particular order)

“Timber Ho” – 6.25 Camden

“Bathtub Gin” – 6.15 Portsmouth

“Reba” –  6.18 Hartford

“Wolfman’s” – 6.11 Chicago

“Mikes’s > H2 > Weekapaug” – 6.12 Blossom

“Slave” – 6.15 Portsmouth

“Split Open and Melt” – 6.25 Camden

“Stash” – 6.17 Hartford

“Jibboo” – 7.4 Atlanta

“Antelope” – 7.4 Atlanta


Jam of the Day:

Number Line > 20 Years Later” 6.12.II

This “Numberline” makes a complete transformation from noodly happiness into a menacing encounter with the dark side. Nominated for jam of he tour, this is one of those segments that is so coherent it sounds composed. Top-notch Phish, through and through.




7.2.2010 Verizon Wireless Amp., Charlotte, NC < Torrent

7.2.2010 Verizon Wireless Amp., Charlotte, NC < Megaupload

Official Charlotte Poster

A two-set effort that sparked the holiday weekend. The second set came in acts, with “Drowned > 46 Days > 20 Years Later” forming the first; “Lizards” as an intermission, and “Carini > Fuck Your Face > 2001 > YEM” as the thrilling Act II.

I: Buried Alive > AC/DC Bag, Vultures, Wolfman’s Brother, Back on the Train, The Wedge, Mexican Cousin, Stash, Sparkle, Chalk Dust Torture

II: Drowned > 46 Days > Twenty Years Later, The Lizards, Carini > Fuck Your Face > Also Sprach Zarathustra > You Enjoy Myself*

E: A Day in the Life

* w/ “Proud Mary” and “Get Back” vocal jam

Source: (FOB) Schoeps mk4v> KCY> Schoeps VMS02IB> SD 744t

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843 Responses to “First Set Jamming”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    hopefully the equation isn’t actually “regular big open jams == unhealthy lifestyle”

    I don’t think it is…the reverse is currently correllated, but correllation does not imply causation

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Robear, you know I am forgiving of such things

    and I love Lizards very much, more than any other GH tune by far

    and I adore the intention of dropping it prior to the Carini

    but it’s a bit on the rough side execution wise for sure

  3. Robear Says:

    phuck man. the open improv from the last two year’s has been all degrees of fun, great and stellar at times.

    i just want a bit more. got spoiled after Red Rocks > Shoreline > Gorge. several open jams each night.

    and for the record, I’m not bitching! It’s motivational speaking.

  4. BrandonKayda Says:


    Nice! I’ll have to see that one. I keep hearing about it but don’t have a clue what it is about – probably for the better if I see it. Looking forward to it.

    Have you ever seen Mulholland Drive/Lost Highway/Vanilla Sky? Great films – definitely play with your head, in a good way.

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    see Inception : will do

    ginormous screen : will do

    clear head : not so much

    I’ll just roll with it

    I enjoy artful confusion

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    If Red won’t jam at the Greek I’ll give him a staring-contest ass-whipping he won’t soon forget.

  7. Robear Says:

    ^figured, re: lizards. one of my faves too. in forgiving mode. not as rough as ‘forbin’s though.

    what C said, re: Inception

  8. Robear Says:

    it’s lakefest out here.

    back outside to mingle with the young party-goers.

  9. BrandonKayda Says:


    Nice! I’ll have to see that one. I keep hearing about it but don’t have a clue what it is about – probably for the better if I see it. Looking forward to it. The ‘clear head’ won’t be a problem 😉

    Have you ever seen Mulholland Drive/Lost Highway/Vanilla Sky? Great films – definitely play with your head, in a good way.

  10. AintNoTele Says:

    What’s up crew, I havent listened to much from 03 but since ya’ll were talking about 2.20 I decided to check her out. That waves was great! Machine-gun-trza steps out for a minute and took me by suprise. Moving into simple now…i had always had a bad taste for 03 without giving it much attention, it seems like a bunch of golden nuggets scattered in a shitstorm. Giant jams that year, some hit, some missed, I’m not sure if I want to take the time to sift through them…actually, yes I do, worth every minute

  11. Mr. Completely Says:


    IMO 03 is a matter of taste

    it is mostly about the jams for me and I run hot and cold on them

    when they click for me I just love them – dense, experimental, turbo-charged, with all kinds of unresolved ideas…

    other times they just kind of all sound sort of the same

    but I would say at least exploring the winter and summer tours is something you have to do if you like big jams, there are really quite a few must-hear shows in there

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    that Simple kind of sums up the year in a way

    sloppy in the actual song, very nice jam

  13. BrandonKayda Says:


    Yeah that is generally how I felt about 03/04 – I just always think of how tragic it ended and the drugs and the mess that they became. I definitely need to give post hiatus a better chance – definitely some fantastic jamming for sure. I guess it is just knowing now in retrospect what kind of road they were headed down kind of ruins some of those shows for me.

    But it’s okay, because they are back in 2010 and are playing great! Most importantly, they are happy and healthy 🙂

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    that’s a really valid perspective @bk

    I think it applies more in 04, and of course the music was much worse overall (SPAC notwithstanding)

    from today’s perspective though, at least we can say that things seem to be turning out OK in the long run right?

    so maybe that makes it a little easier to process. or not.

    when listening to 2.0 I definitely focus on the jam tunes though

  15. BrandonKayda Says:

    Also, where as Post Hiatus eventually turned into a downward spiral – 3.0 has been on an upward climb since 2009. Not trying to say one is better than the other (yet), more-so that Phish 3.0 doesn’t seem like it is going to stop anytime soon, which is a fantastic sign for young fans like myself. I’d greatly enjoy following this band around as an adult 🙂

    This 2/20 Tweezer is dirty/ambient

  16. AintNoTele Says:

    That was my assumption of the year C. I love me some big jams taboot.

    I need to go back and check the date, but I know there is a Vultures>LxL>Vultures in there somewhere that I’ve been wanting to spin. Looks interesting on paper at least. Strange setlist in 03 too, I didnt catch any shows in that era and wonder how the shows flowed in that the sets look jerky. Ex: Lots of 1st set Frankensteins, set ending I didnt Knows, and the like

  17. BrandonKayda Says:

    And yes, Mr C, 2004 was where it really went downhill. 2003 was a very hot year for the jams – I enjoy that aspect for sure.

  18. SillyWilly Says:

    I haven’t listened to much 2.0.

    Maybe I should start tonight.

    I am adequately baned.

    I just got back from a great evening with Last Waltzer and his girl at a state park up here in Wisconsin.

    We started a small hike after dinner, that turned into a large hike, that ended up with us a half mile up this beautiful rock cropping overlooking a gorgeous sunset over Devils Lake.

    It was awesome. Just us, the sunset, a cooling breeze, and some bane.

    a great way to spend a Friday afternoon.

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    2/26 and 2/28/03 I can certainly vouch for

    3/1 gets a lot of love but I haven’t spun it in a long time for some reason

    the jammy parts of the Shoreline and Gorge shows, especially the enormous Shoreline Gin and the Gorge Seven Below, are worth checking out

    7/29 I really like, tho I never listen to the Harpua anymore

    the jammy parts of IT, particularly the Waves that started this discussion

    there are still big chunks of summer I haven’t dug into

  20. BrandonKayda Says:

    Glad that you all enjoyed yourselves @Silly!

  21. AintNoTele Says:

    Definitely feel ya on the upward trend BK. They have a direction and are running towards it. I have a feeling the jams will work back in, in due time.

    Have ya’ll noticed that the ambient type jams have been cut way down in 2010 especailly in regards to Light? I remember there being a pretty long ambient section before Light in Cinci, but for the most part ’10 Lights have been segued via a straight chord progession or very short ambient sections. I like this in that it takes more skill to pull of that type of segue and is a good example of that upward trend. BUT, ambient section can make your head spin 🙂

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    that Shoreline Gin is like 25 minutes or something ludicrous like that and it was just a great experience too

    we had sick 100 level seats for that and it blew up all psychedelic

  23. SillyWilly Says:

    Thanks, BK.

    spinning 2/28/03 as we speak.

    Trey’s voice doesn’t sound great.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    they’re definitely saving the ambient space for the latter part of the Light jam in ’10 so far

    the song starts very directly, as you say

  25. voopa Says:


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